Food and Fandom: Genya’s Almond Kulich

So I pretty much finished the Grisha trilogy recently, and if it were up to me, I’d make all the pastries that were mentioned in every page. Heck, I probably still might go back to a few of the foods that were showcased in the books, but a lot of them did come from Ruin and Rising.

One of which was the almond kulich.

“It’s just a ring.”

Zoya sighed and held the emerald up so it flashed. “I am horrible,” she said abruptly. “All these people dead, and I miss pretty things.”

Genya bit her lip, then blurted. “I miss almond kulich.”

It wasn’t a big mention, but I do adore Genya, and of course she’d mention missing the food at Os Alta of all the things to miss. Naturally, I went to look up a recipe and found one for almond ginger kulich. Bread takes such a long time to make, and I still haven’t got the hang of it much yet. I find I’m usually overbaking or overproofing something, but at least my arms are getting a workout with the kneading!

Kulich is apparently Russian bread that’s served during Easter. It kind of reminded me of the Romanian pasca, which I’d done a while back, which was this sweet cheese bread that was AMAZING. So honestly, I was way excited to try this one out.

Almond Kulich

Original recipe found at Vintage Kitchen.

I also…didn’t quite follow the recipe again, because I’m not a scotch and brandy kind of person, and I didn’t have crystallized ginger handy. SO. I used rum to infuse the raisins, cranberries, and orange zest. Instead of the ginger, I substituted with dried cranberries. I also ended up breaking off a third of the bread dough to make a nut-less version for allergy purposes. Honestly, I think that’s the one that came out the best.

Behold! A nut-less brioche-looking kulich!

And the best part? It’s great with tea!

Verdict: The fruits and almonds definitely weighed the bread down a bit, so it’s not as light and fluffy as I’d hoped. That being said, perhaps next time I’ll use cake flour instead of all-purpose and mix that with the bread flour. All that said, the almond version brought such a good combo of sweet and salty to the tongue, and with some bergamot and orange leaf tea? Holy crap, I definitely have my tea-time snacks for the next few days!

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Of Mangoes and Sponges

So I’m sitting here eating cake (because of course I am), and I thought to myself: “I never actually did write a post about the mango cake I made a few weeks back…”

And because I haven’t actually got a book review ready for today, I figure, WHY NOT talk about the loveliness that is mangoes and cake?

Isn’t that scrumptious?

So I decided on mango cake because it was my father’s birthday, and he does love mangoes. Normally, we could easily get really good mango cake at the local Filipino bakeshop, but come on. I bake, and I wanted to try to make some kind of mango cake at some point.

Lucky for me, I found the perfect recipe to emulate! I found this mango sponge cake recipe at Natasha’s Kitchen, and she really does do a good job with the recipe, so I won’t go too much into it!

The recipe did call for thinly sliced mangoes, but with my oafish fingers, that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I decided to cut a bunch up into cubes (or as close to cubes as I could) and then deal with the decorations by overcompensating with frosting. Oh, hah, but let me tell you about that frosting.

I’ve decided that I’m no longer a big fan of buttercream frosting. Too much buttery taste, which, if you paired it with something else, could actually taste good. All in all, though, there is a time and place for buttercream, and for all else, I usually like the touch of plain ole’ whipping cream.

In this case, though, the cream cheese frosting really did highlight the flavor of the mango and the cake! It wasn’t super sweet, it was lighter than I’d expected (and this is surprising, considering how dense cream cheese can be), and it was tres delicieuse!

In hindsight, the only thing I would change is the actual cake. I don’t know if it was because of my oven, which burnt the cake a bit, or if it’s the nature of sponge cake to be dense, but I would have loved it a bit more if it was a softer texture. Next time, I might try a mango chiffon cake with cream frosting…just the thought of it makes me drool.

That being said, this cake was still really good, especially once I started stacking each layer with the cream cheese frosting and the mango puree. (Side note: I actually didn’t add any extra sugar on the puree. The mangoes themselves were pretty sweet as is, and sugar seemed overkill.)

The cream cheese frosting, though…I may have run out of cream cheese frosting by the end of it. Silly me for wanting to go crazy on cream cheese frosting decorations!

Still, totally worth.

Verdict: All in all, it was a crowd-pleaser, to a point my picky dad even had more the next day. Again, the cake itself could have been chiffon softer, and I would make note not to add any extra sugar in the mango puree, if only to make the actual mango flavor shine. The cream cheese frosting was absolutely delicious!

Food and Fandom: Medovik and Maslenitsa

I needed to get back into gear with the blogging, and what better time to do so especially when all I want to do is talk about food? I think it’s totally the right time, mostly because for me, Lent just began and it’s practically a countdown for me until Easter.

Why is this important to mention? Because of Maslenitsa!

“Maslenitsa was the three-day sun-feast, one of the oldest holidays in Muscovy. Older by far than the bells and crosses that marked its passing, though it had been given the trappings of religion to mask its pagan soul. This–the last day before the festival began–was the last day they could eat meat until Easter. Vladimir, Olga’s husband, was still in Serpukhov, but Olga had arranged a feast for his household–wild boar and stewed rabbit and cock-pheasants, and fish.” – The Girl in the Tower

I had honestly been waiting to get back into the swing of Food and Fandom-ness, especially when it comes to the fictional department, but I’d been so blah lately with books for the past two months that I couldn’t bring myself to be inspired. When I finally read my advanced copy of The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, though, I started getting really enthusiastic about the story to warrant another visit to Russia for some delectable treats.

Also, I’d gone to visit The Russian Tea Room in New York City and was absolutely inspired.

Seriously, how lovely is this place?!

Suffice to say that when February came rolling along, and the fact that my mother’s birthday almost coincided with the beginnings of Lent, I had every opportunity to find something to make that was based off of what I’d read from The Girl in the Tower.

Medovik

“For a few more days, the people could still eat butter and lard and cheese and other rich things, and so in the kitchen they were making butter-cakes by the score, by the hundred, cakes enough for days of gluttony.” – The Girl in the Tower

I’m outright refusing to get into the word origin of this cake, because for the most part, I was finding the word “medovik” when it came to looking up Russian honey cakes. Even though at some point it might also be called a smetannik…but ANYWAY. Natasha’s Kitchen (where I got the recipe from) calls it a medovik, so I’m going to call it that.

I chose to do a Russian honey cake because it was the closest iteration I could find that would best fit Arden’s world. A lot of the ingredients sound like they’d be used commonly, especially when it comes to making cakes. I barely used butter, but sour cream came into play, as did flour, eggs, and honey.

And because I was kind of in an experimenting mood, I wound up using the strong wild flower honey that I got from England almost a year ago. You could definitely taste the flavor in the cake afterwards, which is GREAT, because I adore honey.

Anyway, I didn’t change much in the recipe, so I suggest heading over to Natasha’s Kitchen to get the ingredients and cooking method.

What I should have changed was the way I rolled out these effing layers. WHY DIDN’T I JUST FLOUR THE SURFACE? WHY DID I HAVE TO USE PARCHMENT PAPER?

My arms were sore by the end of it, and I couldn’t even roll it all the way to 9 inches.

So…8-inch diameter cake it is!

From there it was pretty much easy peasy lemon squeezy. I was half-expecting my frosting to collapse on me, but I think it actually held well! The sour cream with the frosting and the sugar stiffened enough to keep the shape of the cake, but it also moistened the cake layers themselves.

THOSE LAYERS THO.

Verdict: I honestly thought I’d be chomping on a layered frosted cookie. But that was not the case! It was delicious, and the sour cream and honey flavors came through. In the future, I might experiment with condensed milk or cream cheese, though I got no complaints with the sour cream. It’s mostly for me at this point, because after a day or two, the smell and flavor of the sour cream started to get a bit more overpowering than usual.

So all in all, being back to doing Food and Fandom things was so totally worth.

Wrap Up: November 2017

We’re almost halfway through December but this wrap-up still totally counts, right?

I’m making it count.

You’d think it being November that the main reason I disappeared was because I participated in NaNoWriMo. While that was the case, frankly, I didn’t even finish that. Too much baking had to get done over the month, and clearly there was also the matter of report cards to deal with. Sigh. Is it July yet?

This will be a pretty short wrap-up, looks like.

Books Read

Been on a rut lately, and I’ve yet to get out of it. I am reading something that might possibly get me out, though finding the time to read is another matter entirely.

Asylum by Madeleine Roux || Unnatural Issue by Mercedes Lackey || Superman: The High-Flying History of the Man of Steel by Larry Tye

Currently Reading

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling || The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden || Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza || Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Writing

No. Go away.

Movies and TV

I’ve done a TV binge for the most part. Mostly of baking and sweets stuff. Don’t think I’ll continue on with Zumbo’s Just Desserts though. It’s a little over the top and my mouth aches from all the overly-sweet pastries I’m staring at. Finished the second season of Stranger Things, and omgaaaaah. So. GOOD.

Also watched a lovely French film called Peau d’Ane (1970). I totally recommend it. And you can actually listen to a podcast review of the movie in Meg and my Fableulous Retellings blog.

Titan A.E. || The Prince of Egypt || Peau d’Ane || Monty Python and the Holy Grail || iZombie season 3 || Stranger Things season 2 || Zumbo’s Just Desserts season 1 || The Great British Baking Show season 3

Video Games

The Wolf Among Us – Because for research purposes. Um. No, really, though, I played this for the Fableulous Retellings Podcast, and no regrets!

Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze – Totally found this gem on my Android and already finished the first two episodes. When’s the next one being released?! Seriously, love everything Miss Fisher. So long as the series also has a Jack Robinson. And a Dot. And a Mac. Yep.

I’ve also been playing random apps on my phone, but I won’t go crazy describing which. Suffice to say I tend to get sidetracked a lot…

Fooding

As I said, a lot of baking happened. I baked for my school voldies, I baked for two sets of Thanksgiving dinners, I baked for school staff. I also ate random foods and cooked random foods. Too much, I tell ya. Too much.

Sliced fruits over a sugar cookie || Cheese ravioli with homemade marinara sauce || Lychee mochi and lychee-infused gelatin || Apple cupcakes || Apple scones || Assorted Japanese cookies || Mashed potatoes || Pecan pie

I really need to get back to book-inspired baking at some point.

Okay, now I’m hungry. Running off!

An Apple a Day Drives the Witch Right into Your Path…Wait

I kind of got away with that title there, but to be fair, whenever I see apples involved in literature, I immediately think of the tale of Snow White. It’s not even my favorite tale by a mile, but I will admit that some of the retellings I’ve read do bring about the need to bake something with apples inside. Winter, I’m talking about you specifically.

And yes, okay, so most apple covers don’t necessarily mean Snow White. I mean, unless you can give me a really good argument that says Twilight is a metaphor for the story of a crazed queen and her attempts to kill her more beautiful stepdaughter (but wait, wasn’t Kristen Stewart a star on both so maybe there’s the connection…argh, I’m digressing), then yeah, apple covers don’t mean Snow White.

Buuut there’s got to be an appeal to apples, right? Because poor, silly Snow likes apples. Winter happens to love ’em especially when sprinkled and baked in with cinnamon. And honestly, I love baking with apples when I can.

So there you have it. Apples. Are. Awesome.

Now that I’ve completely rambled on about dem apples, onto what I had meant to do, which was post something I had made weeks ago! (Hah, yes to backlog of baking-related posts!)

Apple Bread

Say hello to the most scrumptious bready thing ever! I’ve been saving a ton of apple-related recipes on my Pinterest to get back to later on, and eventually made my way to one I wanted to attempt. So while I procrastinated writing, well, anything (I’m sorry Meg and Tarma and and…yeah…), I baked something I could totally use as an excuse for being unproductive. Only I suppose I was productive, because I made bread.

The recipe was pretty straightforward, and the glaze was standard milk, not cream, because I didn’t really have any cream handy. (And I wouldn’t go so far as to make glaze with cream anyway, not too fond of it being too thickly sweet). I also used three apples instead of two.

And with my sister’s trusty new apple corer, peeling coring, and slicing those apples took mere seconds!

Like the recipe suggested, I split the batter up into two. I lined my bread pan with parchment paper poured half the batter in, half the apple mixture in, and sprinkled that with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then rinse, repeat. I waited 45 minutes before checking up on the bread, and let it brown a bit more before pulling it out of the oven.

Verdict: The bready middle was super moist and soft and so yum. It was a good call to split the batter so there’s plenty of apple to go around. There was a suggestion to add walnuts in, but with a brother who’s allergic to practically every nut in existence, I can safely say this recipe can do without.